I suddenly feel so constricted. My chest feels tight and in the words of my little girl when she used to be nervous or afraid, “my tummy feels small.”
My only explanation for this is that I feel trapped in a battle between a safe, familiar routine I’ve established in my life, and a deep longing to step out, take a leap and pursue a dream to share my work with the world, and literally live the life of my dreams.
Worry about the outcome, trying to please all (often the most well meaning people in our lives tend to freak out a little when we make big changes) along with the relentless fear I feel at the mere idea of this (what, are you crazy?), simply leaves me exhausted.
When I was young my father encouraged me to read, as a professor he offered up many suggestions, some classic literature, some not so classic but insightful, deep and with a lesson about life he hoped I’d learn.
I chose romance, much to his dismay. Hours turned into days, months and years spent with my nose buried in a glorious romance novel. It was then that I knew I wanted to write.
The words that come are a gift to me, flowing to and through me. They spill into the air or onto the page depending on where I am at the moment. I’ve learned to capture them when they come or risk that I will miss them, losing them forever. Once captured it is my choice whether or not to share them with the world.
Putting my words out there has required some internal work on my part around what that means to me. How attached am I to the outcome and external approval?
Am I writing for me or am I writing for you?
In time I will work to polish the edges, for now I simply listen with my heart and allow the words to flow, telling stories as they come, risking the critique of both the public and the voices in my head…“you are not a writer.” And for now, I deal with fear.
Some days are better than others, easier than others.
Today is a good day. I’m in alignment, accomplishing things I have been working on for what feels like forever. I am happy, full of energy going about my day, preparing to write, when wham…
Seemingly out of nowhere fear bears down on me with all its might and I feel the familiar tightening in my belly. My tummy gets small. So I stop.
“You are not a writer.” I hear it clearly as I sit before my computer and begin again, to write.
In this moment, I have a choice. I can choose to listen to the critics, my internal voice of fear, or I can choose to move ahead and be brave.
Today I choose brave. I cry bullsh*t to the voices, I talk back, and I take a stand. I write, therefore I am a writer.
Traditionally we’ve been taught that being brave might include the likes of stepping straight into the path of danger to help another, skydiving, standing up for what we believe and not being afraid to tell it like it is. Those things do, in fact, require that we are brave.
But what about the times that something not quite so obvious requires you to be brave?
Exposing yourself to judgment is brave, risking love after having your heart broken is brave, walking away from things that are unhealthy, that is brave. Just like the whispering critic inside of you, there is also a whisper of strength.
Brave does not come without insecurity and fear; brave means to do it anyway.
So what do I do when I’m longing to share my work with the world, do what I love, follow my heart and fear takes hold, setting off the chorus of critics in my head?
It hasn’t always been easy but over time I’ve discovered there are a few things (five steps) I can do to help overcome fear, silencing my inner critics.
Before I go through these steps it’s important that I disclose to you that you may rid yourself of all fear if you simply skip steps one through four and go straight to five. It took me a long time and a lot of practice to come to this conclusion, but ultimately one through four are not really necessary, more of a comfort for those of us who feel the need to work through things, to follow a system.
It is also important that I clarify exactly what kind of fear I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the kind of fear that keeps you from living your dream, taking chances, putting your work out there into the world. Fear of things like rejection and criticism. I am not talking about the kind of fear that stops you from stepping in front of a moving vehicle, that fear is good, it is there to protect us.
The next time fear pays you an unwelcome visit, try this:
1. Identify: Feel your fear, explore and identify your thoughts creating it. Where do you feel this fear? What is the exact thing that this thought is telling you to fear the most? Rejection, humiliation, laughter, criticism?
2. Challenge: Face your thoughts head on; do not avoid them. Courageously decide that you will not allow these thoughts to sway or deter you.
3. Defuse: Look at the worst-case scenario, the thing you fear the most. It’s never as bad as we imagine it could be.
4. Refuse: Refuse to buy into this thought, this story. Change the thought. Actually write it down, and turn it around. What is negative becomes positive. Keep your power.
5. Remember, this fear is actually a figment of your own imagination. It is not real (begin here to save time). It is just a thought. You have the ability to change your thoughts. Doing so can, and will, empower you to move through the fear.
Fear is a frequent visitor in my life now that I’ve decided to live my dream. But instead of worrying about it, or even giving attention to it, I simply use it as a gauge that I am on track, stretching and pushing myself just outside of my comfort zone.
When fear shows up, simply offer up a thank you and get back to work, knowing that where there is fear, there is usually growth.
It is time to stop giving power to a thought that is not even real, holding you back and keeping you from sharing your gifts with the world. The world needs you, and you need to step up if you are ever going to feel the joy that comes with following your heart.
What if every artist refused to share their gift because they were consumed with a fear that what they were sharing might not be received in a positive light?
How would it feel to be brave, to trust that you were given this ability not by accident, but because your gift could make a difference in someone’s world?
Sometimes, when it is all just a little too much, when fear appears stronger than my ability to follow my own steps and advice, I do this…
I write for me, I create for me. And I forget about the rest. If what I write finds its way to exactly those who need it, wonderful!
If not…who cares?
I did it for me. You can do it for you.
Author: Trudy Stoner
Editor: Travis May